Cross-Party Calls for Chris Grayling to Resign Over Seaborne Freight Crisis

There have been cross-party calls for the resignation of Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, following the collapse of a contract with Seaborne Freight. Grayling rejected concerns about the status of the contract which has now been cancelled.

Andy McDonald, the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said in a letter to Grayling:

“I was not alone in being astonished that you awarded a £14 million contract to a company with no money, no ships, no track record, no employees, no ports, one telephone line, and no working website or sailing schedule.”

Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP for Broxtowe, said:

“Grayling has no grip on the very serious nature of his job. The prime minister should also be considering whether there is not someone else who could do the job better.”

Daniel Kawczynski Criticised for Misleading Comments

Daniel Kawczynski, the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, has been criticised for making misleading comments about the UK’s relationship with Europe. He claimed that there was “no Marshall Plan” for the UK, when it was actually the largest beneficiary.

Kawczynski said on Twitter:

“Britain helped to liberate half of Europe. She mortgaged herself up to eye balls in process. No Marshall Plan for us only for Germany. We gave up war reparations in 1990. We put £370 billion into EU since we joined. Watch the way ungrateful EU treats us now. We will remember.”

David Allen Green, a journalist and lawyer, wrote on Twitter about Kawczynski’s post:

“It was a vile and inflammatory tweet – accusatory and base. The sort of thing no decent and responsible politician would want to send, even if their facts were correct. But Daniel Kawczynski does not even have the wit to be an adequate demagogue. Because far from the UK getting no Marshall Plan, the UK as a matter of fact was the greatest recipient. So not just an untruth, but the opposite of the truth.”

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, said:

“Is this a parody account? Britain received billions from the Marshall Plan and significantly more than West Germany or any other nation. Pick up a history book and you will learn that this brand of jingoistic nationalism is what tore our continent apart twice in one century.”

Kawczynski refused to apologise, saying that:

“The tweet was actually talking about all the things that Britain has done for Europe. Let’s not forget we liberated part of Europe in the Second World War.”

Asked on Talk Radio to explain the tweet Kawczynski refused to answer and instead terminated the interview.

Government Backs Down and is to Waive £65 Settled Status Fee

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has confirmed that the Government is no longer going to charge EU residents a fee of £65 to apply for settled status in the UK.

The Prime Minister said in a statement in the House of Commons:

“I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30th March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. And anyone who has or will apply during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed”.

Neil Gray, the SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts, said during the debate:

“I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to waive fees for EU nationals, but once again, she is four months behind the Scottish Government. It is clear—I see it again today—that her pig-headed stubbornness and ridiculous red lines have brought us to this position; it is a mess of her making. Why was she not willing to have cross-party talks two and a half years ago?”

Boris Johnson Criticised for False Claims on Turkey

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has been criticised following claims he made this week that he didn’t mention Turkey during the Brexit referendum. Answering a question from a journalist, Johnson said:

“I didn’t say anything about Turkey in the referendum campaign. I didn’t say a thing about Turkey”.

He then added:

“Since I made no remarks, I can’t disown them”.

When a journalist queried this Johnson replied:

“I didn’t make any remarks about Turkey, mate”.

The  BBC fact check team said in a post:

“Boris Johnson talked about the issue of Turkey joining the EU several times in the lead-up to 23 June 2016 and was co-signatory of a letter to the prime minister warning about Turkish membership a week before the vote”.

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham, said on Twitter:

“Earlier today, Boris Johnson claimed that he never spoke about Turkey during the 2016 referendum. It’s yet another lie he’s been caught out on. Don’t let him get away with lying again”.

Sir John Major Calls for Prime Minister to Become Mediator

Sir John Major, the former Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, has called on Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to become a “mediator” in an attempt to break the deadlock on Brexit.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Major said in an interview with Nick Robinson that one way to make progress was “for the Prime Minister to lift some of her red lines”, or alternatively to ask Parliament to “form a consensus”.

Major added:

“The Prime Minister argued valiantly for her deal, she fought for it, she got a deal, but the House of Commons killed it and killed it comprehensively. So her deal is dead and I don’t honestly think that tinkering with it is going to make very much difference, if any difference at all. So the Prime Minister still needs a deal. If she can’t deliver one that Parliament accepts, then she will need to become a facilitator, a mediator, to find out what Parliament will accept. I think there is a way she can do that, I personally would hope that she puts down a series of motions so that Members of Parliament can indicate their preference. We can then see whether there is a consensus in Parliament that is possible, that Parliament would accept. Ideally for that, all party leaders would permit a free vote, so we can get an honest representation of Parliament. That is in the Prime Minister’s interests for this reason, it’s the only way to get an absolutely honest answer from Members of Parliament and if it is a free vote, it removes the danger of resignations from Government or the opposition front bench because they disagree with their leader’s policy”.

Suella Braverman, the Conservative MP for Fareham, rejected the former Prime Minister’s call for Parliament to reach agreement, saying that Major was part of the “elite” and she added “thank you Sir John, but no thanks”.

Jeremy Corbyn Refuses to Enter Brexit Talks Until No-Deal is Ruled Out

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has rejected the call from Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to take part in cross-party talks on Brexit until she rules out the possibility of a no deal. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Corbyn wrote:

“On behalf of the Labour party, I ask you to rule out ‘no deal’ and to immediately end the waste of hundreds of millions of pounds of public money preparing for a ‘no deal’ outcome. The £4.2bn currently allocated to ‘no deal’ planning could significantly improve many of cash-starved public services on which people rely and could transform the lives of those struggling on universal credit.”

The Prime Minister said that it was an “impossible condition” for the British negotiating team to entirely rule out a no deal Brexit. She also confirmed that she would not accept British membership of the customs union and she also wouldn’t support a second referendum.

Business Secretary Responds to Jaguar Land Rover Cuts

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said that the decision of Jaguar Land Rover to cut 4,500 jobs “will clearly be a worrying time for Jaguar Land Rover employees and their families”. The company has recently confirmed that sales in China have fallen and that Brexit has created a climate of uncertainty.

In a statement, Clark said:

“Jaguar Land Rover have today confirmed plans to offer voluntary redundancy packages to their UK workforce as they reduce their global headcount. This is a commercial decision for the company but nevertheless it will clearly be a worrying time for Jaguar Land Rover employees and their families.

Jaguar Land Rover is a much valued British company with a talented and dedicated workforce. The Government has, and will continue, to work closely with the business to ensure that it can succeed long into the future as it invests and transitions to autonomous, connected and electric vehicles. On Monday, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, and I will convene a Jaguar Land Rover Development Partnership meeting bringing together Jaguar Land Rover leadership, local MPs and representatives from the Midlands and the North West, supply chain, trade body and trades union representatives.

Jaguar Land Rover and its owners have made clear they remain firmly committed to the UK, continuing to invest billions and employing tens of thousands of people. This includes today’s announcement of investment in next generation electric drive units to be produced in Wolverhampton and a new battery assembly centre in Hams Hall. Building on last year’s investment in their key plants in Solihull and Halewood to build the next-generation of Land Rover models, including electric vehicles.

The UK is a world-leader in automotive manufacturing. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are building on those world beating strengths and investing in the future to put the UK at the forefront of the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles.”

Jack Dromey, the Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, said:

“Areas like mine, of high poverty and unemployment… It’s nothing short of tragic that tonight there will be workers at home wondering what their future holds.”

Jeremy Corbyn Makes Keynote Speech on Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has made a keynote speech on Brexit today on a visit to Wakefield. He repeated his preference not to have a second referendum, but instead said that there should be a General Election to deal with problems in society, which he said was “more divided than ever”.

In the speech he said that there was a choice between the two parties:

“The truth is, the real divide in our country is not between those who voted to Remain in the EU and those who voted to Leave. It is between the many – who do the work, who create the wealth and pay their taxes, and the few – who set the rules, who reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes”.

Rejecting calls for a second vote, he said:

“The alternative plan that Labour has set out for a sensible Brexit deal that could win broad support is designed to enable us to fulfil those ambitions while respecting the democratic result of the referendum”.

Prime Minister Defeated in the House of Commons Over No Deal Arrangements

The Government has been defeated today in the House of Commons over arrangements should there be no Brexit deal. The vote is a set-back for Theresa May, the Prime Minister, who said that if her withdrawal agreement is voted down then there will be no Brexit deal. MPs backed a motion which would limit some of the Government’s financial options in the event of a no deal, with 303 in support and 296 against.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, said after the vote:

“This vote is an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit. It shows that there is no majority in parliament, the cabinet or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement. That is why we are taking every opportunity possible in parliament to prevent no deal”.

During the debate today in the House of Commons, Sir Oliver Letwin, the Conservative MP for West Dorset said:

“My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), who is sitting next to me, and I have calculated that we have been in the House, collectively, for 56 years, and we have only ever, either of us, voted once against the Conservative Whip. This will be the second time that we will both be voting against the Conservative Whip, and I want to explain why”.

He added:

“Some of my hon. Friends and others in the country believe they can assure that under circumstances where we wreck the deal, refuse to make all the payments that the EU is expecting and falsify its expectations of a reasonable departure, the EU will then reasonably set out to work with us in a calm and grown-up way to ensure a smooth departure. It may be so. I am in no position to deny that it will be. I do not make lurid projections. Anybody who believes that they know it will be so is deluded”.

Robert Jenrick, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, rejected the proposals in the House of Commons, saying:

“As I made clear, the Government do not want or expect a no-deal scenario. That was why we negotiated the withdrawal agreement, which will see us leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way on 29 March and sets the framework of our future relationship. As we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), the best way of avoiding a no-deal scenario, if that is of grave concern to Members, is to support the withdrawal agreement next week.

Unless Parliament agrees a deal, the UK will leave the European Union on 29 March with no deal, as that was the agreement we all knew when we voted to trigger article 50. That is now the law, and amendment 7 does not change that simple truth”.